ISLAMABAD: In a major legal victory for PML-N, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) Thursday acquitted party Vice President Maryam Nawaz and her husband Captain (retd) Safdar in the Avenfield corruption reference.
A two-member bench of the IHC comprising Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani heard her plea against the conviction.
The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) had accused her of abetting her father and former prime minister Nawaz Sharif in committing the crime.
An accountability court had awarded 10 years of imprisonment along with an £8 million fine to former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, seven years of imprisonment along with a penalty to Maryam, and one year of imprisonment to Captain Safdar in Avenfield properties reference on July 6, 2018.
The PML-N leader had moved the IHC challenging the accountability court's verdict.
Today's hearing on Maryam's appeal against the sentence was headed by Justice Aamer Farooq. He said, after hearing all arguments, that the prosecution's case might be valid but it failed to prove the allegations.
At the outset, NAB Deputy Prosecutor General Sardar Muzaffar Abbasi said that the affidavit by Tariq Shafi was put on record, which mentioned the sale of the Gulf Steel Mills.
Abbasi said that the SC raised a clear objection on how the steel mills were established as Shafi failed to prove that he was a partner in the business.
At this, Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani said that the investigation officer's opinion cannot be taken as evidence.
"The JIT didn't state any facts, but provided only the gathered information," he said.
At this, Justice Farooq asked how all this proves the allegation against the petitioners.
"Prove the link of Maryam Nawaz and Nawaz Sharif with the case of assets beyond means," he remarked.
"We cannot announce a verdict on the basis of public knowledge of some hearsay," the justice remarked before reserving the verdict on Maryam's plea.
In conversation with journalists after the IHC ruling, Maryam said she was thankful to Allah for making Nawaz and her proud today.
"This is how lies come to end," Maryam said, as she thanked her legal team for fighting her case throughout the years. While she was addressing the journalists, she received a call from her "uncle" as well.
Maryam further said no political leader in the history of the country has been through such stringent accountability as Nawaz. "He now has more respect than ever [after my acquittal]."
The PML-N vice president said despite Nawaz getting advisories to not face hearings in the Avenfield reference, not only he, but his children also faced trial.
Moving on, Maryam asked PTI Chairman Imran Khan what would he do now as he has been proven "a liar" and "a conspirator", while Nawaz has come out on top.
Maryam told Khan that he is a "helpless" person now and whether or not he decides to answer for his deeds, history will ensure that you answer for it.
In response to a question that the case was registered against her before PTI came into power and that some other powers were behind it, Maryam said: "Who was the beneficiary of all this? Had Nawaz remained here, then even in three lifetimes, Imran could not have come into power."
The PML-N leader had filed an appeal in the IHC challenging her conviction in the reference.
Maryam had termed the verdict, "a classic example of outright violations of laws and political engineering hitherto unheard of in the history of Pakistan" in her petition filed through Advocate Irfan Qadir.
"Supreme Court supervised the entire process of the investigation of the case and monitored the prosecution," stated the petition.
She maintained that "filing three separate references in the case of assets is also a violation of the law", adding that the accountability court judge would know why he didn’t notice these facts.
The petition contended that the apex court’s “role in the Constitution is neither that of the investigator nor that of the prosecutor”.
“NAB is bound to conduct the investigations with transparency,” the petition stated.
The plea also referred to former IHC judge Shokat Aziz Siddiqi’s address to the bar.
“The judge remarked that the Chief Justice of Pakistan had been approached; We won’t let Nawaz Sharif and his daughter get released till the elections,” the petition quoted judge Siddiqi as saying in the address.
Siddiqi’s remarks, the plea added, created doubts that the verdict of the case was biased.
Maryam’s petition also stated that former accountability judge Arshad Malik's video was also proof that the cases against the Sharif family were influenced”.
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